We live in a culture that praises busyness, and if you’re a full-time employee, parent, or both, it may be hard to justify making time for yourself. Meditation, in fact, might seem silly—how can you lock yourself in a dark, quiet room for hours and chant “ommmm” when there’s work, chores, and family to attend to?
Well, it turns out you can reflect, focus on your breathing, or just sit still for just a few minutes at a time and reap the health (and relationship) benefits of meditation. It can look different for everyone and still be effective!
In this post, we’ve broken down what meditation actually is, why you should try it, and five practical tips for finding time to meditate on a busy schedule.
Kendra Cherry of Verywell Mind defines meditation as “a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.” These methods may include deep breathing, chanting, saying a prayer, practicing gentle yoga, or simply sitting still in a quiet place. Meditation is a centuries-old practice that’s often used for spiritual purposes, but you can also try these techniques independently of religion.
There are two types of meditation: concentrative and mindfulness. With concentrative meditation, you focus all your attention on a specific object or idea and tune out everything else. You can also just concentrate on your breathing to achieve a concentrative state. Mindfulness meditation allows you to make yourself open, aware, and accepting of the present moment—and any thoughts or emotions that come your way. You can use mindfulness to target different issues, such as depression or anxiety.
No matter which type you practice, meditation has various health and relationship benefits, like:
Whether you work long hours each day or are preoccupied with running kids to and from school and practice, finding time to meditate probably isn’t first on your list of things to do. But squeezing in a few minutes of mindfulness or concentration may be easier than you think! Here are a few practical tips for making meditation part of your daily life.
We remember to go to meetings, doctor’s appointments, and soccer games when we write them down in a planner or online calendar. So why not do the same for meditation times? By intentionally carving out a few minutes each day to concentrate on your breathing or become more mindful, you’re more likely to actually meditate. What’s more, you’ll prioritize your own wellbeing when you physically pencil in time to care for yourself!
So when should you meditate? The professionals at Mindful recommend setting aside a few minutes when you first wake up in the morning and just after sunset. Mornings are great for meditating because you won’t have to deal with as many distractions; for example, you don’t have to pull yourself away from your job before the workday begins, and you don’t have to wake the kids up for school yet. Just after sunset is a better time to meditate than right before you go to bed, when you’ll just want to sleep. However, this can be a signal to your body to wind down so you can reflect on the day. Everyone is different, so the key is to find the best time of day for you to meditate!
Even though you now know when to meditate, how are you supposed to ignore the phone ringing, text or social media notifications buzzing, and inbox filling up? Turning off your phone and computer, or putting them in another room, is the best way to remove these distractions. But if your job requires you to be on call, or you’re expecting a text from your child saying he’s on his way home, this may not be possible.
When you’re meditating, do your best to tune out non-emergency distractions that come up. For example, you can change your notifications so that Facebook messages and client emails make a different sound from phone calls you absolutely have to take. This will help you learn the difference between emergencies and noise—and with a clearer mind, you might be able to deal with that email more effectively after meditating.
Sherry Chapman of Medium says a major problem with “busy culture” is we’re all so focused on being efficient and productive that we forget to be still. For parents and workers, it’s especially challenging to schedule meditation times or power down. So, Chapman suggests looking for moments in your day that are less busy, even if it’s just a few minutes (or seconds) at a time. This could come right after chaos—like turning in a big project or getting the kids to go down for a nap—where you have some breathing room to recover. Use these times to go for a walk, pray in your office with your eyes closed, or try yoga in your living room.
Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe has another tip for busy beginners: Attach meditation to another (preferably mindless) task you already do, such as brushing your teeth or applying makeup. Then, you’ll be more likely to actually meditate and make it part of your daily routine. You could also do some deep breathing while using the restroom, or visualize yourself on a beach (or another “happy place”) while waiting at the doctor’s office—other tasks that don’t require much thought but allow us a few moments of quiet and stillness.
Whether you’ve just had a baby or you’re driving five kids around each day, carving out quiet time for prayer or mindfulness is more challenging once you start a family. But according to MindBodyGreen’s Lama Surya Das, parents are in a unique position because they now have children, which pushes them to live outside of themselves. And meditation is all about becoming more aware of the world around you, and not just yourself.
Instead of trying to separate meditation or prayer from time with your children, why not make it a family practice? You can do this by having a few quiet moments with them when you tuck them in, praying together in the car on the way to school, and even trying a parent-child yoga class. Your local family wellness center might also have a chapel for reflection and meditation. You’ll not only be able to find more time for mindfulness by incorporating it into family life; you’ll also teach your kids the importance of taking care of themselves!
Yoga is an excellent way to pair mindfulness and deep breathing with physical activity like stretching, core work, balancing, and more. The practice can benefit your mental and physical health in a variety of ways, such as:
Check out your local gym to learn about yoga and mindfulness classes you can try.
With these five tips, you’ll master mindfulness and concentration and notice a positive difference in your mindset soon! If you’re just beginning to meditate, though, it’s important to avoid beating yourself up for missing a scheduled meditation time or getting distracted while trying to quiet your mind. Doing your best to become more open and aware of the things around you (even while slipping up from time to time) is better than quitting altogether!
Not sure where to start? Try surrounding yourself with others who are learning to meditate by joining a prayer group, mindfulness session, or yoga class. Taking care of yourself is a lot easier when you’re in a supportive group!
With two locations in Lafayette, Indiana, the Lafayette Family YMCA is a community committed to healthy living and social responsibility. For more fitness tips and to stay up to date about YMCA events, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram, or visit our website here.